Structural Systems

The first decision you have to make when considering what kind of home you want to build is the structural system.

Structural Systems

The first decision you have to make when considering what kind of home you want to build is the structural system. There are a few common options:

Brick and Block:

The traditional masonry construction of brick and block is by far the most used for self build projects. Making up 70% of the structural systems used for new self builds every year.

It consists of a cavity wall made up of an inner and outer layer. The outer layer, built out of bricks, offers the build its waterproof nature and also ensures the house is aesthetically pleasing. Whilst the inner layer is made of concrete blocks and is the main structural framework of the house. Supporting flooring for the extra stories as well as the roof.

This construction method is high in mass, hence being energy efficient by holding heat in thebricks before releasing it into the house. It is also comparatively easy to find labour with the skills to construct this type of structure, it is a cost-effective option and allows flexibility in design by being easy to modify or extend.

Timber frame:

Timber frame structures come in a variety of forms, allowing you a vast range of different design options. They are all based around the same theme however, with a timber frame superstructure offering the load bearing framework for the build.

This will be fabricated off site, before being delivered and erected by the timber frame company. At which point, in most cases, they continue the build until the structure is watertight.

From here you are likely to have the option of allowing them to complete the build, like a packagecompany, or finish the build yourself. Either way, although the lead time will be long, the on site construction speed is very quick.

Insulated concrete formwork (ICF):

This method is an alternative to the traditional systems mentioned above, and holds a number of advantages over them.

However do consider it is a more recently developed structural system, and hence is currently a more expensive option in the majority of cases.

It works via the construction of two layers of panelled polystyrene that are filled with concrete. The concrete offering the structural support and the polystyrene panels shaping the walls and providing insulation.

The system is fairly easy to construct and enables very flexible design features due to the fact the walls can be curved. In addition the insulating polystyrene is extremely energy efficient, with U values of around, and below, 0.3 W/mK.

Though you must be warned that this structural system is difficult to modify in the future, with the addition of windows and doors being very complicated.

As you may have gathered, when it comes to deciding your structural system of choice your options are fairly wide and varied. In fact we have only scratched the surface of possible building techniques, highlighting the most common.

There are a number of other possible systems out there that, with research, might well be for you. But whatever you choose its imperative that you read around, collect as many details of what you like and what you don’t like. This will give, with whatever structural system you choose, your designer the best chance of creating your perfect home.

If you have read the sections Who can design it and Structural systems then you are well on your way to setting in motion the steps to drawing up the plans for your dream home.

When this is all complete you are faced with one of the biggest, and most daunting, hurdles of the entire process; that is acquiring planning permission. To help you with the basics, of a very complicated system, you can read our section entitled The planning process.

Column 1

Column 2

Column 3